The Marine Conservation Society is the UK’s leading marine charity. We work to ensure our seas are healthy, pollution free and protected. Our seas are under immense pressure: too many fish are being taken out, too much rubbish is being thrown in and too little is being done to protect our precious wildlife. Our vision is for seas full of life where nature flourishes and people thrive.
Who we are ...
We believe too much is being taken out and too much is being put into our seas. Our scientists, campaigners, volunteers, advocates, data experts, fundraisers, divers and researchers are all passionate about creating a sustainable future for our seas.
The Marine Conservation Society has an impressive past and an exciting future.
The Marine Conservation Society (MCS) grew from the hard work and forward-thinking of a great number of people, many of whom still actively support us today.
There was a growing awareness about the state of our seas in the early 1970s, especially amongst scientists and SCUBA divers, who devised Underwater Conservation Year 1977. This event was especially championed by the late Bernard Eaton, together with eminent scientists and public figures including HRH The Prince of Wales, who continues his unwavering support for MCS as our President today. The event gave momentum to form the Underwater Conservation Society, with a single paid project officer (firstly Dr Charles Sheppard then, for many years, Dr Bob Earll). The name “Marine Conservation Society” was officially adopted and registered with the Charity Commission in 1983.
Since that time, MCS has achieved major successes in protecting special wildlife, tackling sewage problems, helping the seafood-buying public, and influencing Government and industry.
Today, more than 6,000 supporters fund our work through membership, donations, and turtle adoption schemes.
And more than 10,000 MCS volunteers clean up our beaches each year, and help us tackle marine litter at source.
Many millions of people are now aware of our vital work through our sustainable seafood, pollution and wildlife programmes, wildlife recording surveys, campaigns and education work.
Since we were formed in 1983 as the Marine Conservation Society, our campaign to protect the UK’s seas, shores and wildlife has achieved so much. Our supporters have helped us to campaign, lobby, record, clean, advise and influence, ensuring that every year our UK coasts and seas are in a better state for future generations.
1987 – we were entrusted with continuing the campaign for cleaner bathing waters started by the parents of a girl who died after swimming in sewage contaminated waters. Their Golden List of Beaches evolved into the Good Beach Guide, which is now published annually online.
1994 – Beachwatch was launched to bring attention to the growing problem of marine litter and the increasing amount of rubbish found on our beaches. Tens of thousands of volunteers help MCS clean beaches and monitor litter levels. Data collected has resulted in steps to reduce pollution from plastic bags, microbeads, and more, and the information feeds into the International Coastal Cleanup which gives a global picture of this litter problem.
1998 – our Basking Shark Watch programme scored a major success. Information from the public and our own research identified that these magnificent creatures were at risk and resulted in basking sharks being protected in UK waters.
2000 – 60% of UK seas and coastline are in Scotland and MCS used the millennium year to open up an office in Edinburgh. Staff in Scotland have been instrumental in raising the profile of the need for marine protected areas here, the problems of marine litter and sewage in our seas.
2002 – the MCS Good Fish Guide was launched. Quickly established as a vital tool for consumers, industry and chefs, our advice is now used to shape the fish-buying ethos of leading supermarkets.
2007 - MCS worked with the film makers behind “The End of The Line”, a ground-breaking documentary that grabbed the public’s attention on the future of fish and fishing (released in 2009).
2008 – MCS celebrated its 25 year anniversary and published its ground-breaking Silent Seas Report, which looked at the current state of our seas and identified future bleak scenarios which could result if action wasn’t taken to protect the three areas we campaign for – seas, shores and wildlife.
2009/2010 – a key milestone, the Marine and Coastal Access Act was passed for the UK and a little later the Marine (Scotland) Act also reached the statute books. A decade on from the beginning of the Marine Nature Conservation Review and after ten years of lobbying and campaigning, the first steps were in place to secure the future of our seas.
2011 – our sustainable seafood advice was the cornerstone of the Channel 4 Big Fish Fight series in January. We also met with ministers to lobby for the changes we wanted to see in the reformed Common Fisheries Policy.
2013 – MCS succeeded in convincing the UK Government that a charge on single-use bags for English shops was needed, following introductions of charges in Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland (the charge in Scotland came in in 2014). 2,000 people marched on parliament in London to demand Marine Conservation Zones in English seas. The first 27 MCZs were announced along with a commitment for two further consultations in 2015 and 2016. MCS called for crucial reforms in the long-awaited update of the Common Fisheries Policy, which aim to give fishing in Europe a more sustainable future.
2014 - nearly 10,000 people took part in beach clean and survey events - the Big Beach Clean Up and the Great British Beach Clean. We kicked off the Marine Litter Action Network with a gathering in Birmingham in June - the start of a Year to Make a Difference. A carrier bag charge was introduced in Scotland. MCS and other NGOs called on Scottish Government to deliver the ‘best 29’ MPAs and, in July 2014, 30 new nature conservation MPAs were set up, including the largest in Europe.
2015 - our President, HRH The Prince of Wales joined us at the Oceans Plastics Awareness Day on a beach in Cornwall to highlight the growing problem of plastic litter and the work of volunteers and organisations to promote plastic recycling and reduce litter at source. A plastic bag charge was introduced in English shops to help reduce littering. A further 23 Marine Conservation Zones were designated in English waters bringing the total to 50.
2016 - Defra ministers committed to removing microplastics from cosmetics and possibly other household products, depending on the outcome of a consultation launched in December 2016.The Wet Wipes Turn Nasty campaign achieved rapid results, gaining commitments from retailers to label their products as unflushable. We launched a new Good Fish Guide App, with recipes and restaurant locations as well as sustainable seafood advice. After the ‘Don’t Take the P’ campaign with other NGOs, over 2,200km2 of inshore Scottish MPAs were protected from damaging fishing.
2017 - MCS helped Sky News put together its Ocean Rescue programming and campaign. We were bowled over by the number of people who joined the Plastic Challenge in June, when over 5,000 people attempted to go without single use plastic for the month. We successfully called for protection measures at Loch Carron, where scallop dredging had destroyed rich seabed wildlife. Scotland committed to introducing a deposit return system (DRS) for drinks containers.
Seas full of life - seas and coasts where nature flourishes and people thrive.
To drive political, cultural and social change for healthy seas and coasts that support abundant marine wildlife, sustainable livelihoods and enjoyment for all.
What we stand for
Science and people - our staff, volunteers, supporters and partners - are at the heart of everything we do.
We act beacause everyone relies on the ocean to survive, from the air we breathe to the food we eat.
By helping people to discover, value and enjoy being connected to our seas, we can all make better decisions today, which will ensure seas full of life for future generations.
Why we need to act
Our seas are under threat - from pollution, overfishing and a lack of protection. We are taking too much out, for example fish and oil - often using intensive or destructive techniques. We are putting too much in - waste, pollution and damaging development.
What we need to achieve
Stop taking too much out of our seas
MCS will work to ensure sustainable use of the seas by minimising harm when we harvest resources, for example through fishing and oil extraction.
Stop putting too much into our seas
MCS will work to prevent and clean up marine litter and pollution, and to minimise damage from development and climate change.
Responsible fisheries and aquaculture
We will ensure there are more fish in healthier seas, improve the way wild fisheries and farms are managed and influence consumers and seafood businesses to be more responsible in their seafood buying choices.
We will ensure our seas are cleaner, track the health of our seas, identify key sources of pollution and develop innovative solutions for preventing and cleaning it up.
We will ensure our seas are better protected, improve marine management, secure more well-managed marine protected areas, recover, nurture and protect marine species and habitats, and track ocean recovery through research partnerships and citizen science.
Where we work
To ensure we have the most impact, and that we connect with people and strategically engage in projects in pursuit of our goals, we have bases in Ross-on-Wye, Edinburgh and London, and are present elsewhere in the UK, including Wales, the South-East and the South-West of England. We plan to further increase our coastal presence and extend our reach in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
We also engage in policy development, educational projects and international work in the EU and beyond. Our international work focuses on marine conservation primarily in the North-East Atlantic and the UK Overseas Territories to help us achieve our goals and to provide learning and best practice that we can use across our programmes.
How we achieve our goals
- We use science to understand our seas.
- We find creative solutions.
- We build partnerships.
- We inspire, campaign and educate.
- We advocate for policy changes.
- We are persistent in pursuing our long-term goals.
- We connect with and empower people to take action and participate in our campaigns.
- We run a national Sea Champions volunteer programme to spread our message in local communities.
- We work with people and organisations to encourage behaviour change
- We encourage understanding of the value of a healthy ocean.
- We provide open-access, accurate data through our innovative citizen science programmes.